The book ending: what’s your favourite?

I’ve been pondering my next writing project, for after I finish my current work in progress (which is the final book in a trilogy). My new concept has your basic tragedy ending.

That got me to wondering, though, are tragic endings to books an automatic no-no? I’ve seen some agents and editors say that a happily ever after, or HEA, is a must in their books. Of course, these agents and editors specialised in romance, which is a genre where the HEA is pretty much mandatory.

There are other story endings out there, of course, but are they less popular?

The way I see it, there are four possible endings to a book, and two sub-categories:

The Happily Ever After. This is the classic happy ending, where the main character gets her objective — or maybe gets something else that turns out to be as good or better. For example, she may be lusting after the hot jock, but it turns out the slightly awkward best friend is her true Prince Charming. Or maybe she decides why limit yourself? And has both!

All the Tears. The main character doesn’t get what he’s after. There are tears. (A subset of the sad ending is the bittersweet ending — something very sad happens, but the main character is able to see a brighter future on the horizon, when they eventually get over the terrible thing the writer just did to them. I’m looking at YOU, Lauren!).

The Suckerpunch (otherwise known as the Classic Tragedy). The main character gets what she was after, but loses something even more valuable. She gets the part but loses the guy. She gets the scholarship but loses her best friend. You get the idea.

The Martyr. The main character gives up on his objective for a greater good. Maybe he really wanted to win that competition so he could get a dinner with his hot celebrity crush — and he does win, but decides to give the prize to his younger sister, who has a terminal disease. Something like that.

There are also two other categories, which can overlap with one of the four above:

The Twist. That thing you believed was a lie. It turns out Aunt Mable is really a retired, genetically enhanced supersoldier! Or Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Nooooooooooo!

The Cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are the classic marker of a book that’s part of a series (but it better not be the last book in the series or there’ll be a riot!). To continue with the Star Wars references, think about Han Solo, frozen inside someone’s dining table. Or Frodo and Sam, off on their own to Mount Doom because everyone else got quasi-evil.

Think of your favourite book, and how it ends. If you had to pick only one (and you do, because I’ve set the poll up that way!), what would your favourite ending be?

This post is brought to you by Cassandra Page, who’s not above using her AOR spot to do research. 😉

Cassandra Page


  1. Great post! I’ve not thought of all of the endings like this before. I’m definitely a HEA person, but, more recently, I’ve been writing more All Tears endings or, as I call them, the question mark cadence (Music GCSE ftw!) because it’s the sort of is-this-happy-or-not? ending.



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